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More needs to be done to improve prevention in England

22 February 2016

A British Red Cross report[i], published Monday 22 February, reveals that local authorities are struggling to implement prevention services in their local areas despite the enactment of the Care Act[ii] almost a year ago. It comes at a time when cuts to local services have been particularly under scrutiny.

The British Red Cross argues that failing to adequately fund prevention and social care is a false economy and calls on the Government to look again at what resources are required to enable local authorities to implement these new duties in a meaningful way. The charity states that by investing in preventing, reducing and delaying needs for care, the Government could  actually save money in the long-term.                                                                       

The Care Act sets out a triple-definition of prevention[iii] to help ensure preventative services are made available across all stages of a patient’s condition or illness. Despite this provision, too few local authorities and only 12 out of 151[iv] joint Health and Wellbeing strategies are using the official definition.

Without a proper understanding of the duties required, local authorities cannot hope to provide the proper services. The report therefore recommends that all Health and Wellbeing boards and local authorities ensure they use the full definition of prevention as the basis of their preventative planning.

The British Red Cross also found that over a third of local authorities reported developing or investing in new services. However, in many cases, services cited as ‘new’ tend to be those seed-funded by Government over the last ten to fifteen years, such as telecare and handyperson’s services, services that should already have been implemented. The charity argues that, even with budget constraints, local authorities must continue to look for ways to invest in a broad range of intervention.

It is evident that the Act’s vision for prevention is not being fully realised and that more needs to be done to alleviate the soaring demand on care services across England. By providing a national picture of local developments, and highlighting areas of good practice, the British Red Cross hopes the report will help decision-makers at a local and national level make the transition to providing better prevention.

Chloe Carter, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the British Red Cross, said:

“Local authorities must continue to look for ways to invest in new and innovative preventative interventions but they can’t do this alone. At a time when budgets are tight, we urge Government to look again at how to best enable local authorities to implement the Care Act’s new duties in a meaningful way. It is only through such investment that we can hope to increase and improve the provision of prevention services in England.”

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit think-tank, said:

“At a time when councils are struggling to make ends meet, it’s not surprising to find that progress towards implementing these duties has been inconsistent. The LGiU recently found that 40% of councils believe their budgets will lead to cut in front line services that are evident to the public.

“We need the government to seriously commit to giving councils the tools needed to deliver on prevention and the financial structures to benefit from it.”

Follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #PreventReduceDelay.

To access the report and full recommendations visit   

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Notes to editors

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

For more information please contact Teresa Goncalves on +44 0207 877 7618 or +44 077103 91703 (out of hours)

[i] The report draws its findings from Freedom of Information requests sent to every local authority at the end of last year and the analysis of all Health and Wellbeing Board joint strategies. To access the report click here.

[ii] The Care Act (2014) was implemented in April 2015. It places a new duty on local authorities to ensure the provision of prevention services.

[iv] There are 152 local authorities with responsibility for adult social care however Bournemouth and Poole share a Health and Wellbeing Board.